Can Childless Women Enjoy Mother’s Day?

She couldn’t face hearing the Mother’s Day sermon that year. Her doctors had confirmed a few months earlier that they had no treatment for her type of infertility. Adoption agencies insisted that her husband was too old for them to adopt. So she spent that Mother’s Day (and subsequent Mother’s Days) curled up in her bed, weeping over the children she’d never have.

She and her husband were, for many years, two of my closest friends, so I sympathized with their grief as they sympathized with my grief over being unmarried. I had avoided weddings in earlier years, so I well understood why Mother’s Day services would exacerbate her pain. Even now, I believe we should be patient and compassionate toward our sisters in Christ who struggle with infertility because I watched such a special friend suffer so deeply.

And I admit to having mixed feelings now, as many of my friends have become grandmothers. I get tempted toward jealousy when my sister talks about her adventures with her grandchildren. It’s strange, but I feel more upset about not being a granny than about not being a mom. Will someone explain that one to me?

The apostle Paul instructs us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). How often I wish that more Christians would obey that command, especially around their childless sisters on Mother’s Day. Many pastors preach on the glories of motherhood, which is good in our culture that demeans stay-at-home moms. But those sermons, while important, can make childless women feel like failures. Therefore, we must show sensitivity to them, especially on Mother’s Day!

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Exceptions Don’t Invalidate General Rules

Someone on social media kind of complained a few days ago that people too quickly point out their mitigating circumstances whenever they see posts laying down Scriptural principles. I am one of the people she meant, though I doubt she had me in mind when she wrote the post. As I’ve mulled over her remark, I’ve had to agree that people these days are far too sensitive, especially when circumstances beyond their control force them to be exceptions to the rule.

One topic in particular seems to compel me to voice my status as someone with exceptional circumstances. Whenever I hear admonishments against staying home from church, I immediately experience defensive feelings, certain that others judge me as a hypocrite who has no business writing a Christian blog. And if I stayed home from church simply out of personal preference as a matter of convenience, they’d be absolutely right!

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Can Shut-Ins Serve Their Local Churches?

During the last three years (even before Covid), health problems and New England winters have prevented me and John from physically attending church. Thankfully, I’m getting better, so we anticipate returning to in-person worship in April. Meanwhile, we praise God that our church streams its Sunday morning services and Wednesday night Bible Studies. Recently, we had to download Zoom (for my annual doctor visit), which will allow me to participate in our church’s bi-weekly women’s Bible Studies. We maintain contact with our pastor, and one of the elders (along with his wife) visits us often. This period has relegated us to the status of shut-ins.

We typically think of shut-ins as being sick, elderly and/or disabled, which is certainly true. But we should also include caregivers who must miss church in order to assist us. I guess I could write a post listing ways churches can minister to shut-ins, seeing that most of my readers probably are able-bodied. Perhaps I will write such an article in the future. But right now I want to give you tools to encourage shut-in friends and family members in taking whatever responsibility they can to serve their local churches. And I pray that any shut-in reading this post will apply the principles I lay out.

Scripture teaches that the local church is a body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:10-16). Those who are able to physically attend church, therefore, need to meet faithfully with their brothers and sisters as frequently as possible (Hebrews 10:23-25). At the same time, those of us who are (to borrow a phrase from Michelle Lesley) providentially hindered from attending church need to adopt the attitude that we’re still very much a part of the body. We possess the same privileges and responsibilities as all the other members in the congregation. Today I want to talk about some of those responsibilities.

Let’s look at a passage from 1 Corinthians 12 for a moment.

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MichelleLesley.com With (Obviously) Michelle Lesley

It doesn’t seem possible that anyone who regularly reads The Outspoken TULIP would need an introduction to Michelle Lesley and her blog. Of all the women bloggers in Reformed circles, she is probably the best known. Celebrity status? Well, not quite. But hardly some obscure housewife with a meager following!

That said, I want to recommend MichelleLesley.com in this concluding article of my series on trustworthy women Bible teachers because she offers Biblical wisdom that few women receive. On the off-chance that you’ve actually never heard of her, I take pleasure in making her blog available to you.

I suspect most people regard Michelle as a discernment blogger because she frequently writes about popular evangelical teachers. In fact, just today she published an article evaluating Jen Wilkin, explaining her reasons for not recommending Wilkin. Over her years of blogging, Michelle has written about several teachers women should avoid. such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shrier, Lysa TerKeurst and Christine Caine. Michelle makes it clear that she doesn’t have time to research every teacher thoroughly (her primary ministries are to her husband and children), but she definitely documents her findings quite well. Her website includes a list of Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends, as well as a list of Recommended Bible Teachers.

Discernment is only one aspect of Michelle’s online ministry, however. Her overarching goal is to disciple women. She rightly asserts that discernment is just one element of Christian discipleship, not an end in itself. Therefore her blog covers a wide range of subjects, all related to the three umbrella areas of discernment (which I’ve already discussed), church involvement and Bible Study.

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Why Paul Didn’t Go To Church — And Why He Thought We Should

Once again, John is typing this post at my dictation. I’m getting better, and even sat at the computer for 15 minutes last night. However, I am still looking for a morning PCA who can help me build up my back muscles. Consequently, I am not able to include Scripture verses or links to citations at this time. Thank you for your patience and prayer as I recover from my back injury.

First Baptist Church of Weymouth has been open since May, but various circumstances have prevented me and John from attending. Even between my illnesses and back injuries, mask mandate makes it impossible for me to drive my power wheelchair because I operate the joystick with my face. Essentially, John and I are now shut-ins.

Throughout recent months, I’ve been hearing podcasts explaining that church attendance is a command from God. This weekend, in fact, Chris Hohnholz and Rich Story did their Voice Of Reason Radio podcast examining Scriptures directing Christians to meet together. Since Rich has a disability that prevents him from attending his local church, they were careful to note that some Christians are legitimately unable to meet with their fellowships on Sunday mornings (I deeply appreciated their carefulness to mention that fact). But they spent the bulk of their program urging listeners not to depend on livestreams and podcasts rather than going to church physically.

I have often thought about asking Chris and Rich to do a program addressing the needs of shut-ins. Those of us who cannot physically attend church often feel frustrated to hear sermons and podcasts about the necessity of going to church. At least I do. Although I know that the Bible explicitly says that Christians must gather together, I also know that John and I have absolutely no way of obeying that command. Yet it always seemed as if the Bible overlooked Christians in our situation.

Then I started thinking about the apostle Paul.

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Why I Cover My Head For Church And Why I Don’t Believe All Women Should Cover Their Heads

Photo of me wearing a purple hat

I’m known at my church for my collection of hats. One lady in her 80s looks forward to seeing how I match my hat to my outfit each Sunday. My signature look of wearing hats shifts the attention from my disability, giving me the identity as “the Hat Lady.”

Only a few friends know that I wear hats out of a personal conviction derived from 1 Corinthians 11:

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Throwback Thursday: Rightly Dividing And Wrong Division

Originally posted January 9, 2016:

Those of us who believe in adherence to sound Biblical doctrine frequently endure accusations of divisiveness. The majority of present day evangelicals believe that unity among Christians requires an abandonment of doctrine to the degree that salvation and discipleship revolve around a “Jesus” who conforms to individual preferences.

Empty PewThose of us who stand up for doctrinal purity quickly learn that doing so invites censure. We learn that we must keep our convictions to ourselves, lest we cause “division.” We dare not question women leading worship, church growth strategies, contemporary music that lacks theological content, contemplative prayer or replacing Bible Studies with small groups that focus on subjective impressions of how Scripture speaks to each member of the group. Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.

Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:

Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman

Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul’s epistles bear out Trueman’s point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles (most of them, actually) with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. As a matter of fact, right doctrine meant so much to Paul that he refused to tolerate those who would corrupt it with human philosophies. He furthermore warned church members to reject anyone who deliberately and persistently deviated from the truth.

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

Notice that the divisions Paul condemns thwart the doctrine that he and the other apostles taught. He never targeted Christians who stood for God’s Word in opposition to attempts to dilute or distort it to suit their own agendas. As he saw it, the Body of Christ could only experience true unity by teaching and obeying the doctrines given by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. Those who watered down those doctrines caused disruption in the church.

And today, the very people who plead for “unity” seek to erode theological truths around which Bible-believing Christians should unite. Instead of  blindly accepting repetitious “praise” songs that focus on human feelings rather than the Lord’s character and work, for example, we should courageously point out how these songs deviate from Scripture. Similarly, instead of embracing pragmatic church growth strategies, we should encourage our pastors to preach expository, verse-by-verse sermons so that the Word will produce faith that results in genuine conversions.

Those of us who insist on doctrinal purity do so because we love the Lord. We want to see His church united around  His Word, forsaking subjective interpretations of it in favor of understanding it properly and obeying it faithfully. We grieve when people deviate from the clear teaching of Scripture to follow evangelical fads, agreeing with Carl Truman that true division comes though such people.

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That Nagging Awareness That Something Doesn’t Line Up With Scripture

c5fbb-psychologyIt wasn’t only in the Women’s Ministry. The church at large embraced psychological models to help us identify the root causes of our besetting sins. I just noticed the problem more during those women’s meetings.

One evening in particular stands out in my memory. The women leading the meeting instructed each of us to think of an instance when our parents wounded us. They explained that we couldn’t properly forgive them unless we first “worked through” the pain that we had suffered at the hands of our moms and dads.

One lady found the exercise to be perplexing. She honestly couldn’t think of anything she held against either of her parents. Instead of admiring her purity, however, the leaders accused her of failing to deal with her past. I could see their frustration as she continued to maintain that she had wonderful parents — that she couldn’t remember anything they had done to hurt her.

The leaders finally let her alone, concluding that her denial would Read More »

Sometimes Hallmark Holidays Actually Promote Biblical Values

purple-bibleOur pastor plans to bypass the traditional Mother’s Day sermon again this  year in favor of continuing his mini-series on Reverent 4 and 5. That suits me; I love hearing about the supremacy of Christ! If he let every holiday interrupt his preaching, we’d never make any headway in working through God’s Word.

Not that I oppose Mother’s Day sermons. When they’re given with sensitivity toward women who haven’t been blessed with children, they can bring honor to the Lord. Chiefly, they honor Him by reinforcing His commandment to honor our fathers and our mothers (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1–3). As the culture moves further and further away from traditional family values, our churches do well to remind us of God’s design for family structures.

Yes, readers, I realize that Mother’s Day was originally created in 1914 by Ana Jarvis. Because only four of her 13 children lived past infancy, she Read More »

Church From Home: Perhaps Not As Comfortable As We Fear

570da-stone2bchurchSome people have expressed concern that the forced social distancing that has resulted in churches livestreaming services and Bible Studies will discourage physical church attendance once states lift bans on public assemblies. I understand that the concern.

Ever since services have been televised, small numbers of professing Christians have opted out of attending church, finding it so much more convenient to fire up their TV, computer, tablet or smart phone and watch church in their jammies. Those who have experienced hurt from their church families find this long-distance approach to worship particularly soothing. How nice to hear God’s Word preached without the messiness of accountability and/or difficult relationships!

Others feel frustrated by the lack of churches that preach sound doctrine. Not too many of years ago, I despaired of finding a good church in our area, and seriously contemplated getting my spiritual nourishment online. Thankfully, my godly husband nixed that idea and the Lord brought us to a church that faithfully preaches His Word. Still, I understand the temptation to let online services substitute for actual church attendance.

So yes, some people probably will continue watching services from home long after COVID-19 fades Read More »